It sounds a bit weird doesn’t it, ask twice? I mean, why can’t people just be honest and tell you the first time?

I’m of course, talking about asking how somebody’s doing. Does that clear things up? Didn’t think so!

The problem with so many of us, especially with being British, we’re not the best at talking about these weird, intangible things that we call feelings. They’re awkward and can take us into a conversation that might be a bit difficult, as it might lead to… you know… discussions about things that might well make us uncomfortable. The thing is, this approach is broken and it’s causing people harm.

The traditional statistic is that 1 in 4 of us will suffer a mental health problem this year alone – and that’s just the official statistics. There’s a lot of thinking, however, that says whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, we’re likely to all experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives.

The scary thing, however, is that there’s a huge percentage of people who “don’t believe in mental illness” and use phrases such as “man up”, “pull yourself together”, “just get some fresh air” or my personal favourite, “have you tried just being happy?”. Thanks to this sort of person, those of us who need someone to speak to often feel scared that if we share with someone, we’ll end up being belittled, disbelieved and shunned – and that really doesn’t help when you suffer with issues around rejection, or even believing that you have an illness.

Ask twice is a simple thing we can all do to break through the mask that people with mental illness wear to hide what they’re truly feeling, because they don’t feel they’re “allowed” to share, and if they do, they’re at risk of being told they’re making it up. Asking twice allows us to choose to take off the mask, because you’ve shown you’re pretty much capable of seeing through it anyway, and you want to listen to what we have to say.

This year, Spark are getting behind Time to Change’s fantastic campaign to try and get people to ask twice – something that just sounds so simple, yet it brings so much meaning and help to everyone.

For now, shine bright, and remember to ask twice.

Gareth